Vic­to­ria Yards is Jo’burg’s most ex­cit­ing new ven­ture

Vic­to­ria Yards, once an eye­sore for Jo­han­nes­burg, is to­day one of the city’s most promis­ing spa­ces

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Just over a year ago, Vic­to­ria Yards was one of Jo’burg’s many for­got­ten spa­ces. Lit­tered yards, road­ways and di­lap­i­dated build­ings stretched over its 30 000 square me­ters, all remnants of its past as a laun­dry-turned­chop shop. To­day how­ever, just east of the city’s CBD, the space now boasts a gallery, res­tau­rant, art stu­dios and event spa­ces; a wel­come change for the sub­urb of Lorentzville. and far from be­ing a sanc­tu­ary for the cre­ative tastemak­ers of the city, the de­vel­op­ers have cre­ated a space that in­cludes the com­mu­nity in an au­then­tic and con­sid­ered way.

at its in­cep­tion, developer Brian green en­vi­sioned an in­ner-city farm, but his idea of the ur­ban re­ju­ve­na­tion project soon evolved and af­ter only 14 months, the space al­ready re­sem­bled a thriv­ing com­mu­nity of cre­atives, ar­ti­sans and farm­ers. To­day, Vic­to­ria Yards is un­recog­nis­able. dusty yards are now land­scaped, empty road­ways have been turned into edi­ble green­ery, a bore­hole pumps wa­ter for the busi­nesses and gar­dens and the derelict build­ings are now buzzing with life.

us­ing the ex­ist­ing struc­tures as a start­ing point, the build­ings are a com­bi­na­tion of old and new. ex­posed brick, plas­ter and even graf­fiti cel­e­brate the build­ings’ his­tory, some dat­ing as far back as the early 20th cen­tury, while mod­ern fin­ishes such as glass and steel add a con­tem­po­rary so­phis­ti­ca­tion.

spe­cial care was taken to ef­fec­tively cre­ate an ecosys­tem on the prop­erty. an­i­mals have been in­tro­duced as nat­u­ral so­lu­tions to com­mon ur­ban prob­lems. The owlery keeps ro­dents in check, re­duc­ing the need to use poi­son, while fish help fer­tilise plants with their waste.

The other res­i­dents, how­ever, have kept to the artis­tic side of things. ayanda Mab­ulu, roger Ballen and david Kry­nauw are a few of the cre­atives who have started work­ing from Vic­to­ria Yards, and even­tu­ally, as more peo­ple set up stu­dios and work­shops, the hope is that cre­ative ex­change and bar­ter­ing will be­come com­mon­place. Be­yond the arts, Vic­to­ria Yards will also help train and ed­u­cate peo­ple with valu­able skills such as farm­ing and met­al­work. and with an am­phithe­atre and fresh pro­duce mar­ket as some of the other fea­tures, Vic­to­ria Yards is set to be­come the heart of the com­mu­nity in no time at all.

While sim­i­lar de­vel­op­ments around the coun­try have been ac­cused of cre­at­ing bar­ri­ers and keep­ing the com­mu­nity that sur­rounds it at bay, this project in­vites the Lorentzville com­mu­nity, and the sur­round­ing sub­urbs of Ber­trams and Troyeville, to ac­tively par­tic­i­pate.

as one of the city’s most promis­ing projects, it’s hard to imag­ine that just over a year ago it was in ru­ins, just a shell of its past. and while it’s only in its in­fancy, this reimagined space al­ready demon­strates the po­ten­tial of ur­ban re­ju­ve­na­tion projects and what it can mean to the peo­ple that in­ter­act with it. vic­to­ri­a­yards.co.za

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